A seasonal shift: Adventures of a new stay-at-home mom
According to the calendar, spring has arrived. However, depending on where you live, the weather may not reflect the current season. Winter just doesn’t want to give up in some areas.
Just as this seasonal shift is happening, so has a change occurred in our family. I never made a big announcement, but the exciting news is that I quit my job about three months ago. To be completely truthful, I wasn’t sure I would jive with being a stay-at-home mom. I wondered if I would miss writing professionally or laying out website navigations. I thought I might yearn for dressing up in business clothes or wearing makeup every day.
Now that I’ve been out of the corporate world since my maternity leave began about six months ago, I can honestly say: I don’t miss it. Not one thing. (Notice I used the word “thing” because I do miss the people.) I don’t miss the office chatter, drama, conference calls or meetings. Oh, the meetings. The meeting to prepare for the meeting. The meeting to discuss the meeting we just had.
And the work I thought I might miss? Nope. I don’t find myself longing to restructure websites or write fluffy website content. I don’t even miss the occasional scholarly discussions about commas.
Having said all that, being at home full time has been better than I expected. Big shocker here: God knew what He was doing. Call me corny, but it just feels right. My big kids need me. School was closed quite a bit during winter, and it is so nice to be able to attend their daytime parties or read to their classes without feeling guilty for leaving work.
Oh, and the baby needs me. Like a lot. A lot, a lot, a lot. He is quite literally attached to me. At virtually all hours of the day and night. From the moment he was born, his cry has sounded like, “Ma.” On the rare occasion I do leave Vincent, he lets his company know they’re not “Ma.”
Besides being more present for my children, assuming this new stay-at-home mom role has brought other changes in our home and lots of thoughts in my head. For example, Mike used to do the majority of the grocery shopping and most of the cooking. That was a glorious part of our previous season, by the way. About halfway through my maternity leave, Mike asked if I’d be willing to take back the grocery shopping. Since I wasn’t working outside the home and he was buried in stress at his job, I agreed. That lasted one week. Then I got smart: ClickList. Best invention ever. Thank God for Kroger.
Now, let’s move on to what happens to the groceries. I actually don’t mind cooking. I just find it difficult to do it with three kids, one of whom is most likely strapped to my chest. The older two are probably asking for a snack or arguing about who looked at the other for too long. So I am slowly relearning meal planning and prepping, along with kitchen time management, which is quite possibly one of my biggest weaknesses in life. I am notorious for having the meat done, then discovering the potatoes are still almost as hard as rocks. Mike, however, is a master at kitchen time management and such a great cook. Like really, really wonderful. I joke that he is my personal chef, but his cooking is truly super high quality.
Another area where is struggle is cleaning. This is a wide ranging topic, about which I could probably write a separate blog, so I am just going to briefly skim the surface here. I hate cleaning. I mean, I truly despise it. I try to keep up with the dishes that can go in the dishwasher, but it is not unusual for the big stuff – pots, pans, baking sheets, cutting boards – to sit by the sink for a couple days or more, if I’m being honest. And I don’t wash the fancy knives. You know, the ones that go in the knife block? Actually, I’m not allowed. The last time I cut myself, Mike said he would wash the knives. So those are pretty much always stacked next to the sink. Basically, things have to get really out of control or there has to be a guest coming to our house for me to clean. (See my previous post about “panic cleaning” for more on this topic.) My definition of guests excludes my mom. When I know she’s coming, I purposely leave things a mess because I know she will clean. What? She likes helping me.
The other household duty I would like to discuss is laundry. Since our almost 13 years of marriage began, I have always done the laundry. Like cooking, I actually don’t mind sorting laundry. It’s one of those tasks, like loading the dishwasher, that I prefer to do myself because I want it done a certain way. Now that I think about it, loading the dishwasher and sorting laundry are probably the only two tasks about which I feel that way. Now, when it comes to folding laundry, it might take me a day or two, and I put away only Vincent’s and my laundry. The big kids are responsible for their own.
To cover Mike’s laundry, I have to start a new paragraph. First, allow me to tell a funny story. When Vincent was a newborn, my grandma came to visit. Like many people from her generation, she generally says what she’s thinking without hesitation. During her stay, I had brought a basket of clean laundry upstairs, and she began helping me fold the contents. This was nice and exactly what my mom would do. As she worked, she set aside a couple of Mike’s dress shirts, then asked, “Are you going to iron these?” Confused, I replied, “No.” She was truly surprised by my answer. “You’re not?!” I confirmed: “No. Mike irons his own laundry as he needs it.” Wide-eyed, she continued folding. I think she was genuinely confused about what to do with the dress shirts, so she folded them pristinely as if she were working in a department store. To clarify, I do not fold Mike’s dress shirts. I simply place them on top of his laundry basket. Sometimes he chooses to hang them, and sometimes he doesn’t.
My point in recalling all of this is that I realize there is a stark difference between my grandma’s expectations of what a traditional wife should do and the reality of what I do in my home. I am still adjusting and deciding how much of that traditional role suits me. As a trial, I put away Mike’s laundry one time. It was a pain in the butt. He wears dress clothes to work every day, so hanging up the pants and dress shirts takes a lot of time. When he came home that day, I didn’t mention it and waited for him to notice and thank me profusely. Because his love language is not Acts of Service, he was not exactly impressed with my slaving over his laundry. He did notice and thank me, but it was not the fanfare I had imagined.
I am struggling a wee bit with this whole “housewife” label. I generally hate all labels, but that one in particular irks me. But the facts are clear. Mike’s job is incredibly stressful. He has about 100 “kids” (employees) who ask him hundreds of questions per day. No exaggeration. He spends his entire day making decision after decision after decision. And if that weren’t enough – because the mental drain of all those questions and decisions would be too much for me – he is on his feet for 10-12 hours daily, often cooking or sometimes washing dishes, depending on where the day’s gaps occur. He also listens to and resolves customer complaints, many of which are valid, but occasionally downright ridiculous complaints are lodged in an attempt to get free food. He deals with hiring and firing, vendors and contracts, invoices and paid bills. He’s also developing his leaders, providing them with counsel and mentorship. The list could go on, but it won’t because I’m getting exhausted just writing it.
Is being a stay-at-home mom/housewife easy? No, of course not, especially with a baby who hates napping. Stay-at-home momming can be stressful, too. For example, yesterday, I was dealing with a bad diaper rash on Vincent’s bottom. I decided to let it air out for a little while. Of course, as nature would have it, Vincent pooped on me. It got on my shirt and my pants. I thought about texting Mike about this lovely episode, but I refrained because I felt it could add to his stress level, especially knowing there was nothing he could do to help at the moment. In fact, I told Mike last night that I sometimes catch myself not texting him many of the little stressful moments of my day. He knows I have lots of thoughts – so many thoughts. His reply was quite perfect: “You can text me any time. I just can’t promise I’ll be able to respond quickly.” I actually already knew that. It’s not like I was asking for permission. I have just learned, after almost 13 years of marriage, that there are appropriate and inappropriate times to bring up certain topics. So sometimes I wait until he gets home to describe my day. Other times, if it gets really bad, I text him about the frustration caused by the non-napping baby, for instance. And then he comes home with Diet Dr. Pepper and/or dark chocolate. Which makes him a hero, by the way.
So far, this new stay-at-home dynamic means I’m not going to put away Mike’s laundry, but I am taking responsibility for the grocery shopping, the majority of the cooking and most cleaning. Also, I do virtually all of the running – school pick up and drop off, Boy Scouts, Kung Fu, dance, doctor’s appointments, dental cleanings – and I keep track of the schedule to accommodate all of these happenings.
Finally, venturing out to Starbucks and Hobby Lobby are duties that I shoulder alone. I will take one for the team on that. And, on his days off, Mike gladly hangs up or installs all the stuff I buy at Hobby Lobby.